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What it's like to work from home in the Covid-19 pandemic

  • Published at 12:32 am March 30th, 2020
home quarantine
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In order to observe the effects of these sudden changes, Dhaka Tribune talked with some employees at the country's various private companies, who are now performing their everyday responsibilities using various online platforms.

As Bangladesh was forced into a 10-day-long holiday from March 26 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, most private companies had asked employees to work from home to keep their operations running.

More or less, all working in the country's private sector, including experts, have welcomed this initiative. They believe this gives them a better chance to fight the virus, remaining uninfected.

Dr Md Haider Ali, a professor of Dhaka University’s computer science and engineering department, said this step will help prevent the coronavirus outbreak in the country which can be disastrous, considering how densely populated Bangladesh is. "The government should encourage employers to allow their employees to work remotely."

In order to observe the effects of these sudden changes, Dhaka Tribune talked with some employees at the country's various private companies, who are now performing their everyday responsibilities using various online platforms.

Ishrak Uddin Porosh, sales executive at Dynamic Travels, said: "I have been working from home since March 22. I didn't have to physically attend office once during this period. I was doing everything that was assigned to me using different online platforms. 

"This is a great initiative amid the crisis. However, I have to make a lot of phone calls offline and online to synchronize with my coworkers and clients, which was earlier done face to face. Sometimes things get a bit lonely but this isolation is necessary to fight the coronavirus."  

Echoing the same, Nazmus Avro, system monitoring officer at Samsung Bangladesh, said: "I have been working remotely for the last week or so. Working from home makes me feel safe as I don’t have to go out. But things were easy at my office.

"Communicating with anyone was just a short walk away and I had access to more resources. Sometimes I have to suffer due to poor internet speed. I believe this is a small price to pay to stay safe. We should only be allowed to be back at the office when things improve. Not before that."

Emon Imtiaz, chief designer at Our Colour, a fabric printing company in Old Dhaka, said: "I don’t have much to do as orders are getting cancelled due to the outbreak. But my owner told me to work from home so that we all can be safe from the deadly virus. I feel more comfortable working from home but I also miss the office environment. That helped me stay on my toes and be more productive and efficient." 

Meanwhile, world's number one non-governmental organization (NGO), Brac, asked 2,000 of its employees to start working from home to maintain social distancing -- a set of non pharmaceutical infection control actions intended to stop or slow down the spread of a contagious disease -- from March 22.

But around 150-200 people, mostly senior officials, are working at organizational headquarters in Dhaka on shifts, said Rafe Sadnan Adel, head of media and external relations at Brac, adding: “We have resorted to WhatsApp, Hangouts, Skype, phone calls along with email services to ensure a smooth work flow despite operating from home." 

"The organization is also raising awareness regarding the coronavirus outbreak with the help of its 45,000 field workers and 50,000 health workers all across Bangladesh," Adel added.

Masthead PR, a public relations firm based in Dhaka, is also getting its assignments done by employees who are working remotely.

Contacted, Ziauddin Adil, founder and CEO of the company, said: "Around 10-15 of our employees attend office on rotation. The other staff members, 50 to 60 of them, are working from home. However, the office is open for emergency needs.

"We have paid the current month’s salary to our employees. I think this coronavirus-forced holiday is an opportunity for all of them to spend time with their families. We have also strictly instructed our people to stay indoors."

Md Amjad Hossain, accounts manager of Masthead PR, said: "We are serving our clients over online mediums like Lark, Skype, Hangouts, and others. We unofficially started this practice during the early part of the month, but things became official from March 22."  

Around 400 workers including field staff of Unilever Bangladesh have been working from home since March 21, said company officials. 

Those who have to work outside are taking adequate precautionary measures to be safe from the virus, they added.

Robi Axiata Limited, one of the private telecom companies in the country, gave its employees the option to work from home about two years back. They have also restricted the movement of field staff.

Senior officials at the company told the correspondent that currently most of its employees are working remotely, maintaining an updated roster.

They all have been instructed to be ready for video conferencing at any given time during their shifts but with no specific dress code, they added. 

Entities such as Grameenphone (GP), Banglalink, and Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) have also allowed their employees to work from home.

Other companies have restructured their work schedules so that only a small number of people stay at the office at a given time, maintaining social distancing to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

However, public servants will have to immediately return to their respective offices with any urgent call from the government. 

The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) till yesterday confirmed 48 Covid-19 cases in the country.

Covid-19 has so far led to the deaths of over 32,000 people in more than 190 countries and territories including five from Bangladesh.